On the night of 26 June, I was riveted to the TV screen just like most of you. I admit though that my interest in the (tragic) State of Origin II was dwarfed by my interest in what was happening in the halls of Parliament House that night. I spent most of the game groaning at the game and simultaneously trying to follow the political developments via Twitter, announcing each turn of events to those around me—sometimes to their annoyance!
The last time I commented on politics on InFocus (besides the Royal Commission) was right after the first Labor leadership spill when I wrote on what happened in Canberra last week? That post received 1,800+ direct hits with hits increasing every year since it was published in 2010. In many ways, that post addresses 26 June, 2013 quite comfortably if you just switch the names “Gillard” and “Rudd” throughout.
Now he’s back. It’s a bit bizarre really, but it shouldn’t surprise us too much. There’s a reason Rudd led Labor to power in the first place. And that’s an important point.
One of the things people commented on immediately after Rudd led Labor to power in 2007 is that his campaign was very “Presidential.” In other words, it was very much a personality campaign. It was about Kevin Rudd (remember Kevin ’07?). This was apparently popular with voters. With his colleagues in Labor? Not so much.
In 2010 when Rudd was ousted, one of the key complaints was that his style of leadership was too “Presidential.” In other words, Kevin Rudd was in charge. The ministry functioned more like a President’s cabinet—there to give advice, but not really making policy decisions.
Now he’s back. And he’s a changed man. At least that’s what he’s telling us:
I’ve learnt quite a lot from my previous period as Prime Minister. One of the things I have learnt is the absolute importance of proper orderly consultation with Cabinet colleagues on any major decision of the Government. [ABC]
The question is, is this a Prime Minister who has learned to relate to the Cabinet consultatively as team players do? Or is this a President who has learned that a more consultative style with his Cabinet makes them happier about supporting what he’s decided to do?
If yesterday’s pronouncement is any indication, perhaps we should start calling The Lodge the Presidential Palace. This is a move to make it harder to topple a Prime Minister. Consolidating the Prime Minister’s hold on the office will certainly help avoid what just happened happening again. It will also make the role of the Prime Minister (at least when held by Labor) more powerful. More “Presidential,” if you will.
All of this raises another question: Should we expect to see Rudd resurrecting the Republic debate?
I don’t know the answers to these questions. I suspect, though, that if Kevin Rudd is our first President, his Presidency won’t last long.
In the mean time, we will continue to pray for our Prime Minister and give him the honour due his office.
Grace to you.